Bruce Springsteen describes writing his new autobiography, Born to Run:*
“In 2009, we played the Super Bowl and I wrote a little essay for a website. I felt like I found a good voice to write in with it and so I said, ‘Maybe I’ll try to write a little more in that voice and see where it takes me.’ And I didn’t have any idea whether it was going to be a book or something else or maybe just something for the kids.
“So I just started and went back to what I felt was the beginning and slowly started to write. I think after two or three weeks, I had a little bit of something that I could look at and say, ‘That feels pretty workable.’ Then after that, I wrote intermittently for seven years. There was no rush. Mainly I was just trying to write as well as I could and having all that time to do it kind of gave me a chance to come back to it fresh.
“Even from my original manuscript, everything was rewritten two or three times, very similar to the songwriting process, in that you write down your first thoughts, which is your blueprint, and you see if you have something that can be worked on. And then I’ll go back and I’ll get into each verse and I’ll rewrite it. And so the book was very
similar to that.”
I love this description of Bruce’s writing process for several reasons. First, like so many books, his began with a seed, a short essay. After a while, he found a voice that he felt comfortable in and kept writing. Second, he shifted gears from song writing to narrative prose without any great drama or difficulty: He simply applied his approach to creating a song to long-form storytelling. Third, he was patient: he took the time he needed to tell the story he wanted to tell. He didn’t try to speed up the creative process — he let it find its own rhythm. And fourth, he wasn’t overly attached to his words: Once he had his blueprint on paper, he went back and revised several times.
Watch any video of Bruce performing or see him live and it’s clear he’s a high-energy guy. That’s why it was so much fun to see a photo of him in his book-lined study with a notebook filled with handwritten text. Bravo, Bruce — write on!
* Born to Run is published by Simon and Schuster (http://www.simonandschuster.com/)